Thursday, August 16, 2012

Viral Greatness...

There is a new Schwabs Drug store in the world of show business.  If that reference is vague it is easy to explain.  Schwabs Drug Store used to be a landmark establishment on the corner of Sunset and Crescent Heights Bld in Hollywood. Long gone now but legend has it that Lana Turner was discovered while she was sitting at the lunch counter in Schwabs Drug Store. It is the fabric of the stereo-typical Hollywood dream, which goes something like this: You are sitting having lunch when a cigar smoking power broker walks in,  sees you at the lunch counter and says, "Come with me I'm going to make you a star." The rest is Academy Awards history.
I don't know how may times that actually happened or how many times it was used as a pick-up line. And there is no way to know if it really happened or if it was not just some publicity agent's fertile imagination. Either way the rumor made Schwabs lunch counter the place to be in the early days of Hollywood.  
Later the idea of instant fame and discovery became associated with the Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson.  This was the belief that you only had to do one great shot on the Tonight Show. If you were called over to the couch by Johnny on your first appearance, the next day you could be in development for a sitcom. Of course getting a shot on the Tonight Show was not easy.  It was certainly harder than having lunch at the right Drug Store Counter, but the actual odds of getting that "one big break" were just as staggering.  I often thought that instead of a couch on the Tonight Show set they should have had a lunch counter. But I am old fashion in a lot of ways.
Now there is a new route to stardom.  It is a modern day path to that ultimate Hollywood dream of being discovered.  The part of Schwabs Drugstore is now played by YouTube and the cigar smoking agent has been replaced by the number of hits a video receives.  Being called over to Johnny's couch is now referred to as "going viral".
Viral greatness is what I call it.  Someone uploads their video to Youtube. It is seen by people who email it to other people that recommend it to friends who like it on FaceBook.  The Internet being a mathematical creature counts the the number of these hits and records it for all to see. It is the ethernet equivalent of drawing a large crowd.
Since this is Capitalistic America, where there is a large crowd gathering, "vendors" appear ready to sell their wares to the gathering masses. It was ever so. In the days of public hangings the local storekeepers would flock to the gallows to sell to their goods and services to the throngs.  I'm sure these local storekeepers, who sold more of their inventory to the crowds, referred to that as a "good day". Maybe for the merchants, but what about the Hangee? 
Fame, money, stardom and popularity are all mixed together in one Show Biz dream.  In reality they are four separate paths that are not bundled together.  It is easy to separate them when you think about it. One can be famous without being popular. One can be rich and not have stardom. One can be popular but poor and unknown.  Do you want to be famous, rich, popular or a media star?  Well, pick one, you have a better shot at attaining one of those dreams if you are willing to sacrifice everything else for it. Sacrificing everything means giving up the desire for the other three to gain the one, if that is what it takes. It is a crap shoot and the odds double exponentially with every adjective you add to the dream. 
I know this sounds like a guy who would start this discussion with, "Why back in my day."  And there could be some of that influence on my attitude this morning.  It is a little late for me to be "discovered". Some might even say that I have been to the show and had my turn.  However, I am stuck in the Johnny Carson era of seeking fame.  I like the idea of working really hard to get the best act you can so it is good enough to be on the Tonight Show with the hopes that the hard work will pay off. I might be invited to the couch where I am auctioned off to the power brokers. It is hard for me to think of YouTubing myself riding a unicycle down a water slide with the hopes that either my incredible skill or humiliating fall will go viral. If it gets enough attention I can repeat the stunt on Jimmy Kimmel.  It is not the path to popularity/fame/riches/stardom I am familiar with.  
Wait... I know I will video myself sitting at the counter of Schwabs drug store waiting to be discovered.  I better shine up the unicycle and find a really tall water slide.  Jimmy might invite me over to the couch if I can still walk after the stunt.
As you were,
Vendor selling to the crowd....


Anonymous said...


things change, that's for sure.
But look at're vlogging!

real talent will always out...and that seat on the couch will always be yours!

Ben Vee said...

As Andy Warhol said; "In the future everyone will be world famous for 15 minutes" Unfortunately with the proliferation of so-called "reality" tv like The Kardashians which in truth is manufactured by television networks the general populous have a burning desire to participate and become the next shrilled voice of the video waves.